TUSKON President Rızanur Meral
The president of one of Turkey's leading business associations has said Turkish-Chilean trade volume has the potential to more than double and reach $1 billion in the next three years.
Speaking at “Chile-Turkey Free Trade Agreement: Opportunities for Bilateral Economic and Commercial Relations,” a seminar organized in İstanbul on Tuesday, Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) President Rızanur Meral underlined what he called a “substantial but little used” economic cooperation potential between one of the Muslim world's most populous nations and this key Latin America country.
A free trade agreement (FTA) between Turkey and Chile was signed in 2009 and came into force on March 1 this year. It became the latest in a number of FTAs Turkey has with 14 countries, including with members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a free trade organization of four non-EU member states located in Europe. Chile, on the other hand, has FTAs with 58 nations around the world.
Turkey is the world's 16th largest economy and is set to overtake some nations currently ranking in higher positions on the list in the mid-term, based on the pace of growth that its gross domestic product (GDP) has shown in the past decade. Between 2003 and 2010, Turkey's economy grew by over 5 percent and in 2010 it was the third fastest growing country worldwide after China and Argentina, with a notable growth rate of 8.9 percent. This year economic growth is not expected to remain below 5 percent despite a set of measures the government and the Central Bank of Turkey as well as the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) took to slow it down. Chile, likewise, has also shown strong economic growth performance in the past decade. With its population of 17 million and a GDP of some $258 billion last year, it has become increasingly more important and visible among Latin American nations. In 2010, bilateral trade between Turkey and Chile was recorded at almost $400 million, more than three quarters of it being Chilean exports to Turkey. “That Turkish-Chilean trade and cooperation between the two countries' businesses was so little relative to the potential between them, we think, is because the two countries have very little knowledge of each other. If we can bring trusted businessmen together and work carefully on building our commercial relations from now on, we believe that our bilateral trade will become more than twice last year's figure. At TUSKON we believe in this potential and that Turkish and Chilean businessmen can successfully cooperate in so many areas,” Meral said. He added that there is particularly substantial potential that Turkish entrepreneurs can take advantage of in Chile in areas such as agriculture, the agricultural industry, textiles, ready-to-wear clothing, construction, fisheries and tourism.
At Tuesday's seminar, Chilean Vice Minister of Agriculture Alvora Cruzat also addressed participating businesspeople and bureaucrats from both countries. He said Turkey will serve an important role for Chile's economic presence in the Middle East and elsewhere. “Turkey is now a gateway through which we can make an overture particularly in the Middle Eastern and Asian food sectors. He said his government is aiming to make Chile one of the top 10 exporters of food worldwide in the mid-term.
Also speaking at Tuesday's gathering was Chilean Ambassador to Turkey Luis Palma Castillo. He emphasized that Turkish-Chilean relations take their roots from early years of the Republic of Turkey. Chile was the first South American nation to recognize Turkey's independence in the early 1920s.